Context

Enough cannot be said regarding analysis within the original context. Once an object is moved, its association with other objects within a burial or tomb is lost. Without accurate associations, the meaning or significance of that object and understanding of the reasons for its placement are also diminished. Even if the objects are bound within the wrappings of a mummy bundle or coffin, movement will potentially alter the location of artifacts held inside. Imaging should therefore be conducted within the original context, that is, within the tomb or while the remains are still in the coffin. If tomb or burial orientation is such that imaging is impossible, the images should be acquired as close to the original context as is feasible once the bundle or coffin has been disinterred. The excavation should be conducted with as little movement as possible to minimize movement of potential internal artifacts. Although the authors realize that this is not always feasible, it is the ideal.

Even though the association of grave goods with the individual remains appears to present compelling information, these associations, once removed from the original context, must be questioned. For example, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the height of the Egyptian mummy and artifact industry, it was possible for a visitor traveling to Egypt to buy a nicely wrapped mummy and place it in a nice coffin (Aufderheide 2003). Thus, the person referred to on the coffin hieroglyphs may not be the person actually in the coffin. The coffin text may indicate that the individual was someone of royalty, while the imaging analysis of the individual within that coffin may reveal paleopathologies associated with someone who did not live a privileged life or even someone of a different sex. This is not an uncommon problem as many museum holdings came from these Victorian age souvenir collectors who later donated their mummies with the coffins to a local historical society, library, or museum.

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